By Laura Kelly
Mentoring Do’s and Dont’s
We get emails from countless sources describing the significance of mentorship in college. So often, that the word mentoring has lost some of the importance it once had. While for some, arranging a mentorship is merely a rite of passage and a check on a GT1000 gradebook, the potential in finding real mentors, when tapped, is vast. When finding mentors and seeking advisement, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Seek mentorship from different backgrounds, ages, and interests. Guidance from the University of Washington notes that a diverse mentor team will provide a range of skills and advisement areas that would not be found if you only look at your direct superiors for mentorship.
- Approach your mentor with clear and specific goals in mind. Your mentor should know your schedule and how often you intend to keep in contact.
- Look to your own weaknesses. If you know that you struggle with being assertive or often find yourself seeking positive reinforcement, look to advisors and superiors that are known for these strengths.
- Keep your circle small and interactions minimal. Finding mentors that share similar interests but can offer unique experiences and perspectives can be found outside of your trusted professor’s office hours. Be visible and put yourself out there with unlikely people; the more discussions initiated corresponds to the likelihood of encountering a solid mentor.
- Be passive and apathetic. Many people do not purposely act this way, but rather become nervous in the face of their superior offering feedback that may be difficult to accept. Show that you are grateful for their time and appreciative of their advisement with enthusiasm.
From the information posted by the University of Washington, I have found that the most important piece of the mentoring puzzle is being on the same page; having different expectations, unsure deadlines, and vague communication methods are all quick ways to establish a dysfunctional mentoring relationship.
Being an Impactful Leader
Similar to the buzzword mentorship, the quest to becoming a great leader is one frequently spoken and advised on. Especially in college, leaders exist in many capacities and formats, which is why being a leader despite the audience and situation is crucial to forging relationships and accomplishing tasks. Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, moods, and personality traits is one of the most important ways to become a better leader no matter the setting (Vora 2014). Finding the things that motivate you, habits that make you tick, and situations you thrive in are all ways to better understand yourself. Once that level of introspection is maintained, you will find yourself understanding others better. Described as self-awareness, this sense of understanding how others receive you and respond to you is a key to better serving those you are leading and creating a more seamless effort, no matter the task. A challenge that presents itself in leadership, especially in unfamiliar settings, is knowing how to interact with people of different backgrounds. Knowing how to communicate effectively with people from different cultures is important for getting points across without coming across as too assertive or too weak. All the while, do not attempt to adopt other cultures’ communication methods, as it could come across as disrespectful and appropriative (Mayer 2015). Becoming a good leader is not a simple methodological process because each person has different experiences with leadership roles and histories dealing with others. Better realizing how you excel in certain situations and fail in others is key to growing as an impactful leader. With that said, trying to be a better leader by better understanding yourself and your peers is in vain if proper feedback is not received.
How to Give and Receive Feedback
Perhaps the most important aspect of leadership is the process itself of becoming a better leader; growing your skills, honing in on your weaknesses, and expanding your communication capabilities are all parts of this process. The way in which you can accomplish this growth is through feedback – both giving and receiving. While it may be difficult to accept at first, feedback should be thought of as useful data that can be analyzed to better yourself (Petersen 2013). You may see yourself as a giving, caring group leader, while your constituents see you as a pushover; knowing how you are perceived is an important aspect of becoming a more effective leader. When giving feedback to others, it is useful to not equivocate while not being overly blunt. By offering feedback with the person’s interest in mind rather than simply rambling off complaints, you are more likely to make an impact. While your coworker may have thought his e-mail was timely and funny, you may think over 24 hours is considered late, and that his jokes were disrespectful. Rather than letting this annoyance fester, providing him with the information to improve sooner rather than later in a kind yet assertive fashion is crucial to maintaining a healthy workplace relationship. Balance with the way you communicate is noted as the best way to get your point across while keeping the conversation from becoming negative.
Mentoring Guides for Students. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://grad.uw.edu/for-students-and-post-docs/core-programs/mentoring/mentoring-guides-for-students/
Petersen, D. (2013, November 27). Carole Robin: Feedback is a Gift. Retrieved from https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/carole-robin-feedback-gift
Vora, T. (2014, May 12). Indispensable Traits of a Collaborative Leader: Part 3. Retrieved from http://qaspire.com/2014/05/11/indispensable-traits-of-a-collaborative-leader-part-3/
Mayer, E. (2015, September 16). Giving Negative Feedback Across Cultures. Retrieved from https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/giving-negative-feedback-across-cultures-4259